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ESPN+ service launches April 12

ESPN digital studios I Photo (C) ESPN Media Zone

Disney will launch ESPN+, its new sports-focused streaming service, on April 12.

ESPN+ will be the company’s first direct-to-consumer TV service. Subscribers will be able to watch live events from sports like MLB, NHL, MLS, boxing, golf, tennis, rugby, cricket and several college teams. Customers can access it either through the ESPN app or ESPN.com.

The spring debut has been anticipated since early February, when Disney announced pricing details for the $4.99-per-month service.

The number of events available to watch on the app will vary by sport. For example, ESPN+ will feature an MLB and NHL game each day during the regular season, totaling more than 180 games for each sport.

The service will feature more than 250 MLS games, including more than two dozen Chicago Fire games for viewers in the Chicago area.

The service also touts thousands of college events from mid-major conferences like the Horizon League, the Ivy League and the Missouri Valley Conference. It won’t feature events from the Power Five conferences, including the Big Ten, SEC and Big 12.

The company says people who subscribe to MLB TV will be able to watch all of the baseball games offered by that service within the app. That service costs an additional $24.99 per month. A similar NHL package will be available beginning next season.

But ESPN+ won’t feature all of the most popular games shown on the main ESPN TV channels. Streaming those networks will require a subscription to an existing service that offers those channels.

Disney has been ramping up its efforts to win over people whose viewing habits are shifting away from cable TV, and toward digital streaming services like Netflix and Prime Video from Amazon. Another streaming service for Disney, Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm content is expected to launch in late 2019.

ESPN, one of Disney’s most prominent properties, has struggled in recent years with declining subscriber numbers and ad revenue.

Last year ESPN laid off hundreds of employees, including on-air personalities, writers and people working in studio production and digital content.

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